Music

Coyne, though, has an overwhelming feel for the "real" blues. His voice and affect are certainly more authentic than that of his post-flower-power, British white-boy peers, less hep and citified than the Stones, less sanctimonious than Eric Clapton. He was devastating in tossed-off a cappella snippets from songs like "Happy Little Fat Man," "Marjory Razorblade," and "Lunatic" ("I'm a little Luftwaffe pilot/ You're a little ice cream seller") and stretches of improvised scat. Unfortunately Coyne doesn't have an equal mastery of song craft. More straightforward offerings, like a second encore rendition of the ballad "Victoria Smiles," were the work of a dissipated rocker humored by a too forgiving cult of fans.

Happily, Coyne spent most of the show flapping his arms like wings and jabbering his jaw and jowls, living up to his midset promise: "This isn't entertainment, this is something entirely else." —Alec Hanley Bemis


Numinous, Maximus

According to Nightline, poetry's buck-wild scion, Hip-Hop, rules pop culture. And—flipping Jim Croce's (yes, a brother's quoting Croce) nod to his father, "I've Got a Name"—Hip-Hop's living the dream that Poetry kept hid. Christening his second CD, longstoryshort (an Ani Difranco release), in BAM Café's exposed baked-bean brick grotto last Thursday was one of those chocolate founding fathers, Sekou Sundiata (he's Righteous, Babe). A by-product of the Black Arts movement, Sundiata writes free verse that's equal parts surreal and sociopolitical; at BAM, his honey-roasted baritone wafted over his five-piece band's frequently gritty and symbiotic bouillabaisse. Windy City guitarist Marvin Sewell's ragas meandered through the funk juggernaut of "Urban Music," and his Hawaiian lap-steel approach accented the bacchanalian calypso-township encomium "Mandela." The supernal "longstoryshort" was anchored in a guajira-meets-bounce rhythm as zaftig Ronnelle Bay belted and shook the prodigious gifts her momma gave her. (The whole vibe wedded the numinous with the gluteus maximus.)

Sundiata's solo showpieces "Shout Out" and "Space" were rhythmic, a cappella incantations that owned the evening. A postmodernist djeli, Sundiata mesmerized the crowd when his voice became the only orchestra—tenor saxophone shrieks and djembes included. "Space" was a paranoid scatsophrenic, rife with shell-shocked syncopation. During "Space," Sundiata became equal parts Betty Carter, Bellevue outpatient, and Mensa spokesperson as he channeled more history through his head than he knew what to do with and became "nuts from the get-go, sane from the what not." He transmuted himself into the kind of ranting, malodorous seer whom rush-hour commuters ignore, but now had paid to acknowledge their historical amnesia. And as deranged as he seemed, many BAM commuters must have been too, 'cause they knew every word—these weren't merely fans, they were disciples. And poetry's been known to like it when we call it Big Poppa. David Mills


Her Back Pages

No hurry here: On Vagabond Ways, the 1999 album that belatedly came out here in the spring of 2000 and finally merited a New York appearance just last weekend, Marianne Faithfull unearths a Roger Waters track called "Incarceration of a Flower Child," written in the late '60s but never recorded. Notes on someone's more-than-19th nervous breakdown (possibly Syd Barrett's, but it really doesn't matter), the song now looks back while looking forward: "It's going to get cold in the 1970s," Faithfull bellows brassily, relishing every lost hope she's reviving. Few versions of classic rock nostalgia are bearable; this felt and campy mixture is exquisite. John Lurie can disguise himself as lounge singer Marvin Pontiac; David Johansen converted Buster Poindexter into a Harry Smith archivist. Faithfull, modest following or not, is an icon unto herself.

At Hunter College on Saturday, she had the benefit of a band fiercer than the one that made the record, including world-class bassist Greg Cohen (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, John Zorn) and guitarist Smokey Hormel (Beck, k.d. lang). A frilly mid-'60s pop hit that Jimmy Page and Jackie DeShannon wrote for her, "Come and Stay With Me," chimed like prime Byrds. Yeah, she's "Sister Morphine," but she's also groovy. The numbers from the 1979 punk-diva touchstone, Broken English, were as loud and pointed as you can ask. Better still, the tracks from Vagabond Ways played off the same vibe: As Cohen, Hormel, and drummer Courtney Williams built up serious fuzz, and the echo button switched on under Faithfull, "Wilder Shores of Love" gave off the bowed intensity of Lou Reed's "Blue Mask." Falling to her knees to do "Incarceration of a Flower Child," Faithfull hit the 19 in 1970s, as if to say, My God, that was last century—file me next to Oscar Wilde. —Eric Weisbard

PS: It still isn't clear whether, in "Vagabond Ways," the lines "I like sex/And I move around a lot" are a list or a connected thought.

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